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Happy New Year everyone.

Two questions:

1) If a company provides chip timing services at a race where a record was potentially set and would need validation, what documentation is required to show that the timing system collected the times at the appropriate locations? (For example, suppose a chip timer accidentally placed the leading edge of their antennae 6 meters in front of the finish line as measured by the original course measurer. How is this detected?)

2) Who validates chip timing systems and their usage documentation for accuracy? More specifically: What written guidelines are in place to ensure that a new chip timing technology will provide specific documentation to ensure accurate times for participants when used as directed?
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When RRTC was formed, part of its mandate was to oversee the conduct of race timing. In those days electronic timing did not exist and timing used chutes, place cards, and hand timing. A manual was prepared – Road Race and Finish Line Management – which was intended to assist those doing the work.

The area of race timing has never been adequately addressed by RRTC. Most of our members are course measurers, with a sprinkling of people who put on races. No one has shown an interest or a capability to bring us up to what is needed to achieve credibility in finish line management. We don’t have the horses to pull the finish line wagon. The people who operate timing systems are the only ones who really know how well they work. And some of these people are better at it than others.

The need for accurate race results is twofold: All of the runners want to receive an accurate time, and in the small number of cases where a record is set, dependable results are needed by the records-keepers. Most runners wear a watch and know how they ran, and often make their views known to race management when official results do not match what the runner has obtained using his watch.

The record-keeper, however, is not in a position to know of discrepancies in the race results, and typically receives a list of finishers and their times. Race timing is rarely perfect, and adjustments are sometimes needed to make the results accurate. Sometimes these adjustments are minor, and sometimes large mistakes or malfunctions occur. Nevertheless, a set of race results is generated. Whether the adjustments are ever made known to the record-keeper is unknown to me. If the timer does not report his adjustments to the record-keeper, how is the record-keeper to know whether the results are correct?

Documentation can only go so far. If too many questions are asked, and the documentation gets burdensome, there is little incentive for the race timer to bother with sending the paperwork to the records-keeper. Also, the answers to the questions may not be entirely accurate, as they could reflect adversely on the timer’s capability. I wonder whether the record keeper has ever received a set of results along with a note saying “The top 55 places are OK, but after that we had problems and the remainder of the results are probably in error by 5 to 20 seconds?” Possible, but I doubt it.

Winning times are rarely a problem. These often are confirmed by hand-timing. It’s back in the pack that things get uncertain.

When I have tried to put myself in the seat of a record-keeper, I always got frustrated by my inability to figure out a way to know whether the results I’m looking at are real, adjusted or fiction.

The problem doesn't lie with the timing systems – it’s all in how they are employed. Inaccurate setup, equipment malfunction, disrupted electrical connection, operator error – there are many things that can go wrong. Usually things can be fixed, but sometimes they can’t be fixed very well. Telling the difference is the problem for the record-keeper.

I don’t think we have a satisfactory answer to Alan’s questions, nor do I know of a good way to assure that we can get them in the future.
Last edited by peteriegel
To answer Alan's first question... It is the task of the record keeper to decide if a mark is credible. The road record application encourages the submitter to include as much information as possible to verify that the mark is valid. That information may include photographs and videos of start, finish and turnaround as well as information on the primary and secondary timing devices. If the record keeper is satisfied with the application, a validation may be requested. If all goes well, the record keeper will submit the performance for ratification at the next USATF annual meeting. At that point it is up to the sports committee to decide is the performance should be recognized as an American Record. During that process, anyone can question the validity of the performance.

As Pete mentioned, race timing is rarely perfect. The records process does assume credibility and common sense on the part of the timing company and race management.

The USATF record keeper for all road running events is Andy Carr from the Atlanta Track Club.

Here's a copy of the Record Application used for road races.

To answer Alan's second question... Although the USATF does have competition rules regarding the placement of the timing mats, the USATF does not test or evaluate any timing devices for road (or track) events. David Katz, our IAAF Technical delegate, spoke on that topic at the 2007 USATF annual meeting and may undertake the project.
competition rules regarding the placement of the timing mats,

I think it would be useful for there to be a published minimum for what is required from a timing point of few for a record to be set. Do you need discrete timing using a stopwatch? Do chip times count?

I think we misrepresent events as being record eligible because the measured course is, when in reality the event timing or management is not up to snuff.

What the initial question asks is, What do you have to have in place to time a record?
  • Can just the chip time be used?
  • Do you have to have a start mat to show that a runner past over the start and did not jump in half way down the race?
  • Do you need to have a verifiable way of making sure the runner went all the way to the turnaround?
  • Are there different standards for age group (back of the pack) records?
  • Do runners making an attempt have to identify them selves to the RD before the event so they can be monitored?
  • Is there a different standard for short races, a mile, compared to a marathon?
    [*}How must race time, start time be recorded?

I think some guide lines, a set of standards, or a set of standard practices would be good. We don't have to specify the brand of equipment but we can develop some general standards.

It would be better to work this out before there is a big media row. We don't want to be issuing asterisk records.
Last edited by jamesm
Transponder (chip) timing is not used for open or world records. It may be used for the winner of a Masters LDR age group with certain restrictions. USATF Rule 265.10 specifies when transponder (chip) timing may be used.

Here's the text of Rule 245.10 (from the 2007 Rules of Competition)

10. Properly rounded net times provided by transponders may be used for Masters LDR age group records provided: the competitor wins his/her division; the transponder mat defining the start time is placed completely before the start line; and the transponder mat defining the end time is placed completely after the finish.

There are additional rules that specify the conduct of the road race as well as specifications on the transponder's weight, resolution, placement, etc. The 2007 USATF Rules of Competition are available online to everyone.

Just curious, what's the purpose of the "competitor wins his/her division" clause? There are many races that do age-group awards based on gun times (especially if there is money involved). In that case it would be possible to run an age-group record time from start mat to finish mat, but not win the age group!

Or, what if an 40+ woman runs an American-record time but loses the age group to a Russian?
One reason I posted this comment here is because I was also interested in what the applicable IAAF regulations are regarding this, and where they are posted online, if they are so available. Also, who is responsible in the IAAF community for certifying timing systems? I realize the RRTC handles it for the US ( is the link), but I could not find a corresponding link in the IAAF pages.

Thanks much everyone for all the help so far.
To answer Mark's question...consider what might happen if an age-group competitor waited for the pack to thin down at the start before crossing the starting line. That competitor would have an unfair advantage and may finish with a better net time than his or her age-group colleagues that started and finished earlier. Rule 245.10 would help insure the competition was fair.

The definition of "division" in rule 245.10 refers to American 5-year age groups. American age-group record are awarded to Americans only. In Mark's example the American finishing behind the non-american may qualify for an American age group record.
Last edited by justinkuo
Sorry Justin, I'm going to play devil's advocate.

71-year-old runner A chip time=38:20 gun time=39:20
72-year old runner B chip time= 39:15 gun time=39:15

Current American record=38:30

USATF would deny the American record to runner A?

I wouldn't have any problem giving runner A 2nd place in the race, but I wouldn't deny him the American record.

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